With a little more than a month left in the season, the SIERA underperformer list is less about this year and mostly about next season. You could use the list in two ways: to target pitchers to acquire before your trading deadline (if you have one) that might come cheaper than expected given their SIERA underperformance or to get an early idea of who might be undervalued during next year’s drafts.
Chris Volstad has posted the best skills of his career so far, with the best strikeout and walk rates and second best GB%. Unfortunately, that still leads to a SIERA only a bit below the league average. His BABIP is at .322, the first time it has jumped above the .300 mark, so we cannot immediately say he is simply not Major League caliber and able to post even a league average BABIP. His HR/FB ratio has bounced around dramatically, and although it currently sits at an absurd 17.4%, he actually posted a nearly identical mark in 2009. His real problem has come at stranding runners, as he has only posted a LOB% above 69.6% in 2008, in just 84.1 innings. This could signal some real issues pitching from the stretch, or terrible bullpen support. Maybe even a combination of both. I wouldn’t ever count on him earning a whole lot of NL-Only league value, but I think he has great profit potential next season.
What is interesting is with John Lackey is that his skills are really not far out of line from past seasons. We all know he has been pitching hurt all season, so this is really just a throw away year. The luck metric rules only apply to Major League quality pitchers and an injured Lackey is probably not Major League quality, so that .332 BABIP is probably not just bad luck. A big question mark next year.
I loosened the minimum innings pitched requirement for this list just to ensure Zack Greinke was eligible to make it. He has easily posted the best skill set of his career and has even induced a career best GB%. He could be a top five pitcher next year and there is little chance he will come at a top five cost. The only concern I have is that his average fastball velocity has dipped 1.0 miles per hour. I wonder if that small loss of zip has made the pitch more hittable and contributed to the inflated BABIP.
I was not confident that Brandon Morrow could sustain his improved control all season, but so far aside from the 4.4 BB/9 he posted in May, no other month has been above 3.2. That was really the only missing piece for Morrow as he is a fly ball pitcher and that will be difficult to change. Morrow’s biggest problem this year has been stranding runners, but he has never had issues this bad in the past. One of these years his ERA is going to drop like a rock to well below 4.00, while providing tons of strikeouts. There is no reason not to bet that next season is that year. Of course, he will probably get a lot of sleeper love for the second year in a row, but the good news is that many owners will probably have given up on him after disappointing this year (so far).
Ryan Dempster is basically pitching the way he always has, but his results suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, the issue here is that the Cubs defense stinks, and since that won’t be changing this year, Dempster is likely to continue underperforming his SIERA. The good news is that team defenses sometimes change dramatically from season to season, so this could provide a great opportunity to acquire him cheaply for next season.
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